Local roads offer a real adventure

Posted 4/1/09

When I pulled into the office parking lot Monday morning, I turned the key back to off and sat there for a minute to think about how sick I was of …

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Local roads offer a real adventure


When I pulled into the office parking lot Monday morning, I turned the key back to off and sat there for a minute to think about how sick I was of driving.

Over the past week, I’ve become something of a connoisseur of the South Metro area’s ice-covered roadways.

My ordeal began Thursday as I was at a lunch meeting in downtown Denver. As the first of our spring storms was hammering the roads outside the restaurant, I was inside listening to one of the gentlemen at my table talk about how much he enjoyed playing Mario Kart on his Nintendo Wii. No one else at the table was familiar with the game, so he explained some of his favorite features. One was picking various tracks he felt were challenging or suited his driving style the best.

I don’t know how his gaming skills paid off during the following few hours as he and everyone else evacuated downtown during the peak of the storm, and I wonder if he even fired up the game when he finally made it home.

The irony of that conversation stuck with me through what felt like thousands of hours trapped behind the wheel of my truck navigating icy roads. Between the moments of panic, there was plenty of down time for me to take stock of the obstacles on the road that, if I had the power, I would ban from reality and lock up inside the video game world.

Here are some of mine:

Roundabouts. As I ricocheted through the one at the east of Mainstreet in Parker last Monday morning on my way to work, I discovered a level of hatred for these things that I didn’t think I could achieve.

Even when they’re dry, they’re no great friend of the commuter who passes through them with his or her head on a swivel trying to make sure no one is disobeying the “rules” of the roundabout.

Add a nice glaze of ice to them, and you have a driving challenge unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Round-a-bouts have become something of a phenomenon in our part of the world and are referred to sometimes in planning documents as traffic-calming devices, though no one I know calls them that. These little slices of heaven would be better left to the video game world.

Changing lanes on Main Street in downtown Littleton in the snow. To public works professionals reading this, don’t think for a second that I don’t understand everyone is a critic when it comes to snow removal. Some jobs lend themselves to that sort of thing. I’m a newspaper editor, so I’ve walked a few miles in those particular moccasins myself over the years. If that’s not enough, I was finishing up my sidewalk shoveling duties last Thursday morning when my wife poked her head out the window to encourage me not for forget to shovel the front porch (which we never, ever, ever use, by the way). So trust me, on several levels, I know.

That said, I had the pleasure of being in the right lane when I needed to be in the left last Friday and all that stood in my way was a 2-foot-high wedge of slush running down the center line of the street. Instead of checking my mirrors for a lane change, I felt like I was planning an escape. I was thinking about things like, “If the slush grabs the wheel, do I aim for the golf shop or the hair salon? Which is … softer?” Definitely something that belongs in a game.

The junction of C-470 and E-470. Bet you didn’t know there was a difference beyond the toll plazas, huh? Well, there is. One is maintained by the E-470 Public Highway Authority while the other is maintained by the state. What this looks like on a frosty Friday morning drive is a merely wet road that invites calm cruising at 60 mph abruptly becoming a snowpacked and icy road that invites pure white-knuckle terror at 60 mph. Unless a quarter-mile of sandy, slushy transition can link the two to give the unsuspecting driver a heads-up, leave this sort of hard transition in road conditions to the video game world.

The left turn from Founders Parkway to Front Street in Castle Rock. My buddy at lunch said Mario Kart allowed you to pick karts that are designed to slide sideways through turns while maintaining control and speed. My 10-year-old Ford Ranger was not designed this way, which made Monday’s rounding of this downward, outward sloping turn a real gut-check moment. I have a feeling the guy driving the sedan in front of me, who slid broadside into the side of a fire truck, would agree that snow-covered corners sloped like this have no place outside a game console.

Once again, you can’t beat the real world for entertainment.

Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor for Colorado Community Newspapers. His e-mail address is jbangs@ccnewspapers.com.



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